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Lawmakers mull short-term patch as funding plan slowly advances

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Congressional appropriators are sprinting to turn two big funding totals into 12, after party leaders secured a deal on a government funding framework over the weekend.

For weeks, Speaker Mike Johnson and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s staff have haggled over budget totals for the military and domestic programs — only to wind up with the same funding limits set by last summer’s bipartisan debt agreement.

Now leading appropriators, largely sidelined in past weeks, are back in the mix. Their task is negotiating how to split up those overall budget totals across a dozen spending bills for the fiscal year that’s already in full swing. Lawmakers are exceedingly low on time to figure out those numbers and resolve their vast policy differences across the slate of fiscal 2024 spending measures before part of the government runs out of cash on Jan. 19.

At the same time, Senate negotiators are racing to finalize a border security deal that would also deliver emergency aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, further complicating the timeline.

As a result, there’s a growing sense inside the Capitol that another funding patch will be needed to buy more time for a broader government funding bargain — even though Johnson has vowed no more short-term funding extensions.

“I hate to start talking short-term this early in the process,” Senate Majority Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said of another extension. “We know from history, it’s possible.”

Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) agreed that a spending patch is a possibility, “between the House and the Senate and how much time we have to work with and few other things we have to get done along the way.”

Federal funding for the departments of Agriculture, Transportation, Energy, Veterans Affairs and more expires on Jan. 19. Funding for the rest of the government, including the biggest domestic programs and the Pentagon, runs out on Feb. 2.

On the floor earlier Monday afternoon, Schumer said the deal clinched over the weekend on a funding framework is “a huge step toward avoiding a government shutdown,” but he warned that “producing 12 appropriations bills will not be easy.”

Such a feat will require agreement from the top four appropriators in Congress and “a lot more compromise between the parties,” he said. Schumer vowed Democrats will not agree to any controversial GOP policy add-ons.

To meet the first government shutdown deadline on Jan. 19, it’s likely the first tranche of four bills needs to be negotiated and written by the end of this week. That’s because it typically takes Congress’ nonpartisan budget scorekeeper four to five days to analyze the text. And unless leaders buck the rules, lawmakers are supposed to get 72 hours to peruse the bill text before voting.

Burgess Everett and Ursula Perano contributed to this report.